Covid-19: How the majority of the country is gearing up for retail at level 3

Excitement is building at Claireville Nursery as owners Steven and Louisa Portman prepare to trade from midnight on Tuesday.

While people are advised to work from home and stay home as much as possible at alert level 3, more trade is legal for much of New Zealand from Wednesday morning, when the whole country south of Auckland drops out of level 4.

“It is spring and gardeners in lockdown are champing at the bit to buy plants,” Louisa Portman said.

Garden centres can’t trade at alert level 4, but can at level 3 via click and collect. Customers can not enter the garden centre, and browsing must be done online.

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The Portmans worked to get a website ready during last year’s lockdown as they realised they would be “left behind if not online”.

At the time, Louisa said she was devastated her business, which operates on three acres, was closed.

“Businesses really must get their goods for sale online or risk failure. We are pleased to be ready this time, as it was so hard to have our trees and plants sitting there last year, and not sell them,” Portman said.

Courier drivers will be even busier when much of the country drops to alert level 3 on Wednesday.


Courier drivers will be even busier when much of the country drops to alert level 3 on Wednesday.

She is busy booking car park spaces for customers ready to order and collect from mid-week.

NZ Post are preparing for a surge of delivery work, and will announce plans for handling it via a media statement on Monday morning.

“The statement outlines what we are doing, and have done, to get ready. And, more importantly, what our customers and the public can expect come Wednesday when lockdown lifts for most of the country.”

Butchers, fishmongers and green grocers can open at level 3, and are allowed to have customers in their stores if they have set up the correct hygiene systems, and can have one metre spacing between staff.

Customers cannot eat or drink on any business premises. Bars, cafes and restaurants can deliver and have collection of food and non-alcoholic drinks. They can also operate drive-throughs. They cannot have physical storefronts open to the public.

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Flower growing and distribution can be done, but farmer’s markets, for example, can not operate. Hairdressers and beauty salons can not yet open.

General retail stores can operate but not allow customers onto their premises. Customer interactions are to be contactless, including for ordering, payment and delivery.

RetailNZ chief executive Greg Harford said while it is great that many businesses have prepared to trade online at level 3, it is still very tricky for Auckland businesses to cope. People south of Auckland can buy non-essentials from their local business, but anyone north of Auckland can not. He says this situation would mean a lot of deliveries would go into Auckland from Wednesday.

Businesses with workers needing to cross the Auckland alert level boundary can apply for Business Travel Documents if they meet the criteria for permitted travel. A worker may only cross this boundary if that travel is legally permitted, or if they have a current travel exemption granted by the Director-General of Health.

“I think the government has misunderstood the situation a bit, to be honest, as really for a small business to operate doesn’t bring in many more staff, and it is tough for small businesses to see others trade when they have no business at all,” Harford said.

He wants the country move to level 2 as soon as possible, and says the public can help businesses survive by getting vaccinated as soon as they can, so they can open.

“Staff getting vaccinated and business owners, and as many people as we can as fast as we can will save businesses,” he said.

“Without this level 2 move, the foot traffic that a business needs might not come in time for some.”

“I am hoping the ‘buy local’ movement will take off again and loyal customers would wait to buy items from their local High St business, this could make or break a business,” he said.

Greg Harford is Interim CEO and general manager Public Affairs at Retail NZ.


Greg Harford is Interim CEO and general manager Public Affairs at Retail NZ.

Real Estate agents can resume house viewings at level 3, which pleases Tremains Real Estate Wairarapa manager Rob Slater.

Viewings are with masks on, people can’t touch anything and everyone has to scan or sign in.

“We have offers for houses on the table, but they can’t progress without a viewing,” Slater said.

“We have QR codes for scanning at each house, and are allowed to have two viewings per property per day,” he said.

Slater thinks that real estate will keep going strong during level 3 and the market is going well regardless of the lockdown.

Seven days from the alert level change that allows cafés and bars to open, record keeping of contacts is mandatory.

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